Monday, August 29, 2011

Original Hoisin


How often do you cook with “prepared” foods like condiments, stocks or sauces? And considering it is your year of eating in, how do you feel about using things you can make yourself but buy instead?

Are you asking me if I get I grab mustard seeds and get mortar & pestle out every time I make a ham sandwich? The answer is no. As far as using prepared foods generally, I’m not opposed but if I can make it cheaper and/or better, I do.

Lately, I have been going crazy with Vietnamese and Thai food. Cooking the foods of SE Asia - cuisines with a reputation for freshness, I use more prepared foods than any other kind of cooking I do. Coconut milk, Sriracha, fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce and Hoisin sauce. I have some mixed feelings about just opening a jar of something, I am conditioned to believe doing so is what? Inauthentic, indolent, feckless or just ends up being less than kosher, but its not like I could make any of those quickly or easily at home - where am I going to get 10 pounds of oyster extracts to cook down and how would I get rid of that smell?

Including canned soups and bottled salad dressings, I use Hoisin sauce more than any other kind of premade food. Hoisin is a dark brown sweet/sour condiment made from the leftover residue of soy sauce – it is cooked with wheat flour, vinegar, chili, sugar and spices – notably garlic. Despite containing no seafood or fish, Hoisin or ha-hsien means seafood in Cantonese. More curious, it really isn’t used in seafood dishes, being most famous as the sauce of Mu Shu Pork and Peking Duck. Lately it is gaining notoriety as the thick brown sauce that comes with a bowl of Phở.

I just upgraded to the family sized bottle. A 20oz of Hoisin for a guy that lives alone and doesn’t have people over too often seems pretty indulgent. Well it’s not going to spoil and I have been using it as a marinade/BBQ sauce (another thing I don’t buy). Hoisin, Sriracha, sesame oil, brown sugar + garlic pestled together and a strong pinch of Phở spices and salt – well, that and chicken thighs and fire and I have dinner in the evening and enough for a few days of Bahn Mi.

In most ways, my year of eating in has not been a shock. A few things like making French Fries for 4 times the cost of buying them was a reminder of something I already know – certain crops are subsidized. For the most part this challenge/goal/quest has been all about planning – like chess, thinking 3 to 5 meals (moves) ahead – like cooking enough Hoisin chicken for a few meals. In the next month or two I am going to do 1 week of extreme eating in where I will have a week of no prepared foods – including bread, cheese, tortillas, salsa, canned tomatoes, yogurt, peanut butter – nothing. Just writing that sentence makes me think I will be going on some sort of cleanse. We’ll see how I survive that – I’d tell you in advance that I’ll be reduced to tears except, I don’t think I'll have enough saline left to cry.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Pâté Patter


The happy coincidence of again watching the pate making episode of Jacques and Julia’s “Cooking at Home” and Michael Dickman’s suggestion that pâté and pickles would be perfect fare for a Saturday party at my place the evening before his wedding to the divine Phoebe Nobles, set everything into motion. My obsessions with my subject, that is. Jacques Pepin had pointedly announced how much more economical it is to prepare your own pâté. And, of course, I agreed. Michael must not purchase pâté. I would make it. I had done it before and the earlier runs through made me feel certain that I was ready for the next level. And, yes, it is absurd to pay five times the cost of ingredients for less than a complete expression of the dish, homemade.

Jacques Pepin spoke to his favorite pâté’s qualities: it is a country pâté, aggressively seasoned with allspice, clove, thyme, finely minced shallot, a little garlic and salt and black pepper. The butchers at Sheridan ground the meats to order. I purchased food grade saltpeter to insure the lovely pink hue of the finished product and added a generous helping of green peppercorns for the three day marination in white wine and cognac.

On the morning of the fourth day, Saucyman’s brother, Carl, biked over and helped me line ovenproof vessels with thin slices of lightly smoked bacon. We built each pâté (seven of them)  by hand and laid a core of cognac flavored chicken livers through the center of each. After the final cure of 24 hours, I baked them off in two batches. After each had cooled under the weight of bricks and pots and pans, it was back into the refrigerator, to rest overnight once again.  

*****

When I cook, I like to be immersed.  At the end of each step as I assembled my creation, I retreated to my books and sought out the entry for pâté in each index.  PATES & TERRINES by Friedrich W. Ehlert, Edouard Lonque, Michael Raffael and Frank Wesel (Hearst Books, 1984) was at my right hand all the while.  I have read it cover-to-cover twice over the last weeks, each time with greater admiration. This work offers a bold thesis founded on what we know about meat pies (“pâté” is French, in its culinary sense, for pie) starting with the Roman Apicius and his debt to the Greeks in his famous cook book.

Ehlert and company speculate that the flour crusts containing the pies created by the ancients would have been so hard as to be inedible. And, of course, one can imagine the ancient habit of meats encased in clay.  The point is that dishes could be prepared to be portable and to last more than a few days. If modern pâtés are party fare, the ultimate “fix ahead” menu item, they are also classic picnic fare and travelling food. One gets the sense that in the long articulation of methods of preparing meats from their freshest state, through aging, applying smoke in various degrees to salting or air drying for periods of time even longer than a year, pates represent highly innovative ways of keeping meats for periods of seven to ten days. The understanding that the introduction of fat into flour creates a tender and edible pastry crust seems a medieval innovation as does lining a terrine with caul fat or fatback.  Creating galantines- chicken or other fowl- boned out and filled with forcemeat delighted early modern cooks as did stuffing a goose’s neck or a pig’s foot. Timbales offered yet another vehicle for enclosing meat or seafood.  Aspics of every delicate, shimmering hue and nuanced flavor might liven a platter with its play of light.

It is the nature of pâtés to be in greater or lesser ways a bit showy.  This is one of the more profound revelations of the authors of PATES & TERRINES.  The French word for forcemeat is farce.  A farce is also an entertainment, a comic interlude meant to delight and surprise.  Imagine “the reveal”- that moment when an artful pattern of liver, boiled ham, veal or truffle is exposed by a sharp knife slipping through a pretty crust or a bird that simply looked like a bird.

Ah, life is but a stage and the actors are sharing their amusement as they agonize over the morality of consuming the pretty slices of aromatic pâté plated with pickles and slices of French bread. Art and Life! As I read through PATES & TERRINES the night before Michael and Phoebe’s party, I came to the sentence that read that pate with radish roses is matrimonial fare. I dashed down to Whole Foods and bought a great clump of radishes that I cut and placed in water over night that they might “bloom.”  The next morning, I unmolded four of the seven pâtés, one sliced entire and arranged around the second presented whole on a bed of Italian parsley and decorated with radish roses in a house surrounded by roses in the City of Roses.  Everything had come ‘round.

Charles Seluzicki

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bun Me Guy

Technically it's, bánh mì gà but "bun me guy" is how it sounds in my Midwestern accent. Bánh mì gà is also just a fancy way to say chicken sandwich, but it is also a fancy chicken sandwich - like so much Vietnamese food, seemingly simple but thoughtfully complex.

My year of the sandwich continues: Lately my object of desire is the bánh mì, a Vietnamese term that refers to both the bread and sandwich served in the bread. The picnic or garden sandwich was a concept imported with the French colonials. French style baguettes stuffed with butter, veg and sparse amounts of heavily flavored meat like pâté (Friend of the Blog - Charlie Seluzicki will have more later this week on pâtés). 

The French were trying to recreate the foods of home in a foreign land. Before it was known as the bánh mì, it was called a French Sandwich, too expensive for most native Vietnamese. Once the colonialist departed/retreated to Europe, the sandwich changed.  The baguette understandably stayed, for it is universally good, but the imported and expensive cornichon was replaced by sweet and sour daikon and carrot pickles. Butter still is used for bánh mì, in Vietnam and more frequently the US, but it is expensive and reserved for special sandwiches, like the egg variety. Mayonnaise, my old nemesis, also possibly a French import, is used instead. And for a more sophisticated touch, Cilantro was added, occasionally peppers are used and on a more interpersonal level, the sandwich will reflect the maker. 

Oregon has the 12th largest Vietnamese population in the US, but because we are not a hugely populated state, it ends up being a higher percentage of Vietnamese in the general population, roughly 1 out of every 200 people in Oregon is 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Vietnamese. This not only means I know more than a few people with the surname Nguyen, it also means that like the French, there are people who try to keep the taste of the homeland alive and a large enough population to support businesses like grocery stores, farms, restaurants and bakeries. 

I can walk 7 blocks to my favoritish place to buy groceries so load up up things like lemongrass, daikon, 
and bánh mì - although you can buy bánh mì, the sandwich, in this instance I mean bánh mì the baguette. Delivered everyday (around 11 am) from An Xuyen Bakery in SE Portland in their official delivery vehicle - an 89 Sentra) this bread is so very good. Lighter than air - I know it seems like a hackneyed cliche, but I have actually seen this bread floating, Lao Ving's owners actually need to weigh the bread down so it doesn't float away. It is light, it makes a snapping noise when you break it - it seems to be 3/4 crust, 100% goodness - the bánh mì loaf has become my go to loaf, even when I get all occidental make a western style sub - this bread especially the 4 inch wee- size is perfect for the meatball grinder. The 6 inch loaf works well for other sandwiches of garlic bread, bacon and egg about everything except peanut butter or grilled cheese. 


Photo from Portland Mercury
Maybe it is because the year of eating in means I am eating so many sandwiches, maybe my foodist love of all things Vietnamese biases me, but In a city full of great bakeries, that's right not just good but great bakeries, An Xuyen bánh mì has become a favorite. 


Charlie Seluzicki will be here with a post on pâtés this Friday. I'll be back next week with a couple of posts about grilled chicken and beer just in time for Labor Day. 
  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

CLEANING OUT THE REFRIGERATOR AS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL INQUIRY



“...all the while he is making inspection is himself under the closest inspection.”
Soren Kierkegaard



I have a brand new Westinghouse top freezer refrigerator.  My old refrigerator was a mess, water pooling, freezing under the vegetable drawers, into the vegetable drawers. I still do not know what went wrong. But it had been going wrong for far too long. Unfortunately, this transition from the old to the new meant confronting the reality of my refrigerator’s contents. Contrary to the condition of most single people that I know, my refrigerator is always full.  

No doubt I inherited this tendency in part from my father, a child of the depression, who abhorred waste and had something of a hoarding instinct. I remember clearing perhaps a hundred tins of sardines, some of them seven years old, from the pantry of his house when he moved to assisted living. Canned sardines were a form of currency for him.  He and his pals played poker for them when he was stationed in India during WWII. A stock of them meant foregoing the dreaded mutton that was routinely served in the mess hall. To pass them up when they were on sale was unthinkable.  

My compulsions course differently.  I found three jars of Spanish olives, relics of one brief stint of martini drinking and another of making small batches of alcaparrado (Manzanilla olives, pimentos and capers.) Multiple incarnations of chili sauces were unearthed including chili black bean and two styles of chili garlic. Hot cherry pepper spread and various hot sauces were hidden in a grove of pickle jars. I am very fond of bread and butter pickles and apparently lived with the fear of running out of them.  A variety of fish sauces guarded three dark corners of the second and third shelf. A goofy panoply of oddball mustards in tiny, easily overlooked jars were scattered throughout in addition to the standard brown, yellow and Dijon styles.

The contents of the freezer put me to shame.  The block covered with ice and white frost was a package of Nathan’s hot dogs.  The box of veggie burgers (one patty used) had a 2008 expiration date. Plastic tubs of stock that had been there sufficiently long that the dates and identifying labels had disappeared just had to go. A recent episode on America’s Test Kitchen addressed the fact that most freezers are not as cold as they should be to really keep food safe and that people commonly hold food too long. My father believed that once a chicken went in the freezer or a sardine was tinned it achieved a kind of immortality.  I live with enough of a fear of food born illness not to get sentimental about throwing it out.  I will admit that my heart is a bit heavy at the thought of dishes never cooked and hours wasted in shopping and thoughtful preparation.

When I had emptied the old refrigerator, saved the best of what it held and wiped the jars clean, I discarded the rest.  It was like going to confession.  I had faced my sins, felt remorse and pledged to do better.  When I open the door of my refrigerator now, I feel clean and new.  


Charles Seluzicki

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Catered Affair

I faced my biggest challenge in my year, eating in with Michael Dickman’s wedding this week. I left the house knowing I would eat food prepared professionally. There was drinking, which makes eating almost a necessity. There was a seated reception with table service. I wasn’t going to be the only one at the table not eating. And I wasn’t going to whip out a brown bag and eat my own. I was in a suit damnit. 

So I ate the first meal of the year from a professional food establishment in 2011, yet I don’t feel I cheated my goal of not eating from restaurant, cart or to-go food this year. My prime directive, the shorthand could be called - not paying for it – apologies to Chester Brown – is still in tact.

On top of not being dogmatic, I wasn’t sure if it was even possible to go a whole year without eating food prepared by professionals, so I tried to stick to the more ascertainable not paying money out of my pocket for food and to a certain extent beverage.

I think I have done a pretty good job of not eating out. Here is a full list of foods I have had outside my kitchen in 2011.

January: Croissant, Coffee, 2 beers.
February: 3 beers
March: 3 beers, 2 with my brother who ate fries in front of me. The closest I came to chucking the goal. 2 slices of pizza at a meeting – I was working. Sandwich at work.
April:  5 beers, shared a dessert from Pix that a friend bought, burrito at friend’s house. A sausage given to me for doing work promoting my brother’s book release party (I should charge more)
May: Pasta at friend’s house, 1 cup of coffee, ran out of beans one morning.
June: Make it yourself burritos – Cathy’s house. Beer with brother.
July: Steak, friend’s house. Egg, no Mc, Muffin at a meeting a coworker brought me, 1 cold egg roll at the Dry Soda Cocktail party.
August: Dickman’s wedding dinner, 4 beers, chicken, salmon and potatoes. Tacos at friends house, 2 beers (I did bring a blueberry mascarpone cheesecake). Blueberry muffins at work. Addendum: 2 donuts, Plus whatever is at Cathy’s tonight.

This list doesn’t include candy – I have a bad sweet tooth. And the Vietnamese instant coffee I love. And I have spent money on food purchasing for others 2 beers, one dessert, 1 lamb sausage.

I have my birthday coming up, which generally means offers of food and dinner. I have two standing offers to be taken out to dinner in exchange for a few hours of work I did – I know I should charge more and sometimes when you are offering professional services to cash strapped food enterprises, the owners offer food. Saying no can seem mighty ungracious especially when that is all they can really trade.

Still with no travel plans to compromise the status quo, an investment of a grill, the occasional batch of French fries and the wise investment in Thai and Vietnamese cookbooks, the last 4 months of the year should be easier than the first 8. Or so I say.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stuff and Things

Tonight's cooking lesson learned (again) - never use a steel spoon stirring rice, always go for a wooden spoon. Wood, unlike stainless steel, doesn't break the rice down into sticky, textureless blob-o-starch.

Weekend Meal: Romano Beans with dry Spanish chorizo sausage and garlic. Romano beans, sometimes referred to as Italian green beans, are impossible to overcook. Cover beans with water (barely), medium heat, let the water cook to near dry - Turn down the heat to low, add 2 cloves garlic, salt, a healthy measure of of olive oil, and julienne about 3 to 4oz of chorizo. And cook until you are satisfied. I know it seems counterintuitive with fresh veg, but you want this process to take at least an hour. Up to 4 hours won't hurt anything.

Today's Food: My coworkers expect baked goods on Fridays. Why? For the same reason the dogs sit at my feet with hurt looks when I am chopping at the cutting board - Because both parties have been rewarded over and over again. Friday is the start of my work week, weekends are good times for baking. Peach crumble today. My neighbor gave me some spongy peaches that she didn't want to sell at her store. They weren't eating peaches, they were too watery to add into baked goods like muffins or breads, so I topped them with streusel and am baking away some of the excess moisture from the peaches and I my coworkers who now believe they can put orders in keep asking for just a bag of the streusel.

Today's Lunch: My year of not eating out continues. It's not about will power, it's all about the planning, plus I (still) like sandwiches Meatball sandwich, smoked mozzarella.

Tomorrow's Lunch: Jambalaya of questionable texture (see above).

Farhad Manjoo over at Slate has noticed restaurant websites are horrible. I think many - maybe over 50% of websites are horrible. Sometimes a fella just wants a phone number or business hours off a website not a 15 second flash animation, which on top of being slow loading because the fancy new webpage's server doesn't have enough power,  isn't always compatible with my mac based browsers - often these fancy bells & whistles on the page don't even tell me anything about the business whose site I am visiting. Is this a cautionary tale about deferring to the web designer because they are the expert or me just being all Andy Rooney about [stuff]?

Speaking of design, do vegetables need to be affordable and accessible or just have better packaging? Salon by way of Imprint makes the argument that good design never hurt anything. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Watermelon Man

Everything I know about Baltimore comes from either Charlie Seluzicki's recollections or The Wire. Charlie's gritty realism is too powerful for TV. Take that wire and enjoy another edition from Charlie.
You knew that it was summer in East Baltimore when you heard them, still blocks away, the street arabs, their calls mingling with the lively rhythms of the swaying wagon, the jangling of the harness and the klop, klop of the horses hooves against the hot asphalt: “sweet cawn, ‘lopes, ‘maters.” I was surprised to discover that calling these hucksters of fruits and vegetables “arabs” (that’s “a-rabs” for those of you who do not read Baltimorese) is uniquely associated with Baltimore.  Atcheson L. Hench wrote an interesting paper on the matter- “ ‘Arab’- A Baltimore Word”- in a 1951 issue of AMERICAN SPEECH.


My sister and I grew up knowing the history and traditions of our neighborhood because we lived in my mother’s family house on East Lombard Street.  Ursie had known Smitty, our arab, from the time she was a girl.  Smitty had a great, round face with four chins all covered with grey and black stubble.  He wore a dirty hat and sweat profusely.  Sometimes we spied a pint of Pikesville Rye beginning to ride up in the back pocket which held his red bandanna.  On really hot days my mother would bring him a glass of ice water.  



A network of little stables still ran all through Baltimore City in the 50’s.  We had one right around the corner from us on Durham Street.  The arabs would pick up their horse and wagon and go to the market where they would fill them with produce.  A clever arab got in early, selected the biggest ears of corn, the prettiest string beans and tomatoes, the sweetest melons.  Once in a while he would have something exotic.  Flamboyantly large bermuda onions or tiny patty pan squash before baby vegetables were the rage. I swear that I remember him bringing around a squirming tray of soft crabs one afternoon. His purveyor knew that if he kept him happy, an arab could move a lot of produce when the crops were coming in. What a sight. The wagons filled to the brim, a Chinese puzzle of interlocking bushel baskets, gigantic watermelons trucked in overnight from Georgia and boxes filled with delicately ripe Eastern Shore strawberries. As in the little local bakeries, a dozen routinely meant 13 and Smitty had his pocket knife ready to carve little morsels of fruit. The neighbors gathered about as the wagon pulled up to the curb and their kids huddled in to pet the friendly mare.



Then we moved and it wasn’t like that anymore. Once in a while you would see an arab. But it just was not the same. For a little while through the early and middle part of the 20th century, these arabs played a special role in the way the freshest, seasonal food could be had in the innermost reaches of the city.  



Charles Seluzicki


Baltimore: The Wire locations, part one

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hygro-ponically

Why is (most) cake better the 2nd and 3rd day after baking?

Sidestepping the inherent subjective judgment of your question, the answer is hygroscopy. Yes, it does sound like a procedure involving a camera, private areas, mild sedatives and either a wild weekend or a licensed physician, well maybe possibly both, but hygroscopy is the tendency of a substance to absorb moisture from the air.

And Drive Safely
In cake, the hygroscopic item is sugar, although it could possibly also be salt and honey (think of the salt exposed to air, like in a shaker, caking). Diesel fuel, glycerol, ethanol, methanol and just plain meth are other hygroscopic materials. And I said absorb moisture, but the devil is in the details – hygroscopic items also adsorb moisture. My buddy Lucas, who holds a Masters in chemistry would cringe if he heard me say this (and since he reads my blog from time to time, I might get an email expressing the cringe)…if absorb is a passive action, like a sponge soaking up the wet, adsorb is a active where the surface area reaches out and grabs moisture from the air.

The other part of hygroscopy is that this collection of moisture fundamentally changes the substance, with water taking up residence between the other molecules. The tactile result, the cake is going to be stickier, moister. The microscopic result is the cake’s flavor and texture is being subtly rearranged. The hygroscopic reaction is happening at the same time as the flour and egg foam are breaking down, the cake is becoming more dense and the cells are on their way into forming into one big happy mass. More moisture, flavors being redistributed result in a different, albeit possibly better product than the first day.

I feel like I am cheating only going 250 words with the response, but anything more and I will be getting in over my head with the chemistry, so I will leave it here and promise to post 3 times this week. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

You Said There'd Be Cake

And there would have been I hadn't spent all day yesterday on the video below.

Take this with all the due irony you can afford: But as someone who posts to a fact-based but highly opinionated blog 100 times a year, allow me to editorialize. 9 billion dollars a year in corn subsidies. The occupation of farming is no longer counted by our census. But we do the average age of a farmer is closer to 90 than college age. We subsidize the high salt, high fat, heavily sweetened snack foods and with record unemployment during a prolong recession, well how to people, all people (because I am still rooting for equality) afford healthy, foods and keep federal SNAP dollars in local communities (as opposed to going to Dallas or Atlanta)?

Portland Farmers Market works with an initiative called Fresh Exchange - it matches the first $5 of SNAP benefits, helping all local Portlanders have access to local, fresh food. Local program, practically no budget providing a service to people who need a hand. I believe. Watch the video and come by a sausage with me this Thursday.  


No, Frank You from Dave Adamshick on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

MEDITATIONS ON A SCOTCH EGG

A Sprig of Parsley wouldn't hurt.
Probably wouldn't help either.

If Jeopardy had a stereotype category, the answer would be: Kilts, Whisky and deep-frying. The $100 question would be, What do you find in Scotland, Alex? The Scots engineered a way to deep fry an egg. Our FOB - Friend of the Blog, Charles Seluzicki, has more better thoughts.


Esther B. Aresty’s THE DELECTABLE PAST (1964) is a delightful book of historic recipes and culinary traditions based on the author’s enviable collection of rare cookbooks and manuscripts now preserved in University of Pennsylvania’s library. As she sums up her experience shaping that book, she writes: “Above all, I learned that foods are like letters of the alphabet: they can be arranged in countless combinations.”

Consider the Scotch egg. A shelled hard boiled egg is encased in a layer of sausage, coated in bread crumbs and deep fried. This pub food icon can be eaten hot or cold and is eminently portable. It enjoys the company of a nice crisp pickle and a bit of spicy mustard. Take the same sausage, formed into a patty or a link, and serve it up with eggs, any style, and a side of toast.  Or put them together on a buttered muffin. Formal changes to the same ingredients create very differently nuanced dishes.  Add a bit of cheese and change up the proportions a little and you can create a lovely sausage and egg casserole.  Head south of the border for eggs scrambled directly into chorizo for a taco stand staple.

Gastronomy’s core mysteries are composed of just such wondrous variations on a theme.  Intellectually we understand the difference between arugula dressed with olive oil and lemon juice and arugula sauteed in olive oil and finished with a few squeezes of lemon. One is cooked and one is not.  But the palate’s delight will not be contained by reason.  A few minutes in a hot pan creates a transformation so dramatic as to be alchemical.  Likewise, pasta.  Flour and water, cooked fresh or dried, fashioned into endless hundreds of shapes, plain and fancy. And no two of them will be experienced the same way. Their architecture apparently determining each redefined essence of its two essential elements.  


Charles Seluzicki

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blue, Blue, Muffin Blue. That's the color of my..?

I dare you to find a recipe
The Saucytorium, the room that houses all my books about food, is a theoretical institution. There are a few dozen cookbooks, but most of the volumes are about the history and cultural significance of food and eating. Want to find 3 volumes on the history of place settings/flatware, don’t go to the library, come here. Need to find a recipe for blueberry muffins, well it might be quicker to find a book that explains why blueberries leave behind the ghost-shadow when you bake them, then it would be to locate instructions on how to prepare them.

And the wellspring of culinary information that is my mind, pretty much reflects these books, it is historical with a healthy dose of theoretical. Want to know how baking powder makes muffins rise? I can drop 10 minutes of knowledge on you. Want to know the history of the blueberry? I got it. Need to know the etymology of muffin top as cultural slang? Well, I might need to call in Urban Dictionary or my friend Brian, but I am still more likely to define that than be able to tell you the ingredients in a Blueberry muffin (Um, blueberries, batter, those little paper cups).

So for this weekend’s raging debate at the bookstore: how many blueberries in a muffin? I was useless. The moms in this loose cohort, schooled me. Mr. Fancy Dessert can’t bake a muffin. Mr. Cooking school, so why should I read your blog?

I do own a muffin pan, although I don’t think I’ve ever used it for muffins – you can make cute little custards. I just don’t bake cookies or muffins. I am not even sure I have baking powder – it goes bad and  looses its fizz at a rate quicker than I can use it. If you need yeasted muffins though, I could do that. This isn’t snobbery I enjoy both cookies and muffins, just what am I going to do with a dozen muffins or 2 dozen cookies? I live alone, baking like that would just cause me to develop my own personal muffin top.

As individuals we guessed anywhere from 6 to 34 per muffin. I used math and came up with 18 based on a sample of internet recipes. We visited blueberry dot org, looking for answers. There were none to be had, as those tiny east coast berries skewed the results.12 was the most common response. One of the people who guessed on the low end, did confess on Christmas and birthdays, they would get 10 per muffin.  I don’t know if he was being funny or sad.

Feel free to leave a guess in the comment section or for Facebookers, please chime in on the Portland Farmers Market page.

Charlie Seluzicki has broken through his writers block and has yet another post for us this week. A cake question from Anne and then I am looking for more reasons to consult the Saucytorium, send me your questions & culinary riddles.